AN audit of fire trail management and closures in the past 20 years has been demanded by South Coast MP Shelley Hancock following the recent Deans Gap bushfire.
The call came following a claim by former bulldozer driver Bob Gledhill that Drovers Ridge fire trail, which had been closed, was an important line of defence against fires in the far west of Morton National Park.
Mrs Hancock said she was appalled to learn that volunteers and contractors had to reopen fire trails, which she believed had not been maintained, during the recent fire emergency.
Mrs Hancock recently told 2ST she was angry over the closure of fire trails in the region and was prepared to raise the matter on the floor of State Parliament.
In particular Mrs Hancock was concerned over the closure of the Drovers Ridge fire trail which used to run from near Burrier to Touga near Nerriga.
However, Shoalhaven’s acting fire control officer Mark Williams said the RFS was happy with the overall management of fire trails in the Shoalhaven.
He said the upkeep of the region’s 200 fire trails was a joint effort involving members of the Shoalhaven Bush Fire Management committee.
The area covered by the committee is more than 4600 square kilometres, spanning 160 kilometres of coast from Berry to Durras Lake.
Throughout the area, land tenures are held by federal, state and local government as well as private landholders.
Mr Williams, who is also the executive officer of the Shoalhaven Bush Fire Management committee but was speaking on behalf of the RFS, said there were no issues with fire trails that had been raised with the RFS to his knowledge.
“We have over 200 trails in Shoalhaven that are identified and managed by the committee.
“We can dictate the level of quality required for each trail. For example, a primary trail must be maintained in usable condition.
“The secondary fire trails are identified for us to call on should we need them.
“The reason bulldozers go out is to dress up any secondary trails that have been lying dormant but might be needed depending on the fire behaviour.
“We don’t put dozer drivers in the direct path of fire.
“It is not feasible to maintain all 200 fire trails as primary trails.”
Mr Williams said while he was not familiar with the Drovers Ridge fire trail he said it may well have been a prudent trail.
“From an RFS perspective we’re happy with what we’ve got and if anything comes up we always have the ability to discuss it in the committee.”
Mr Williams said landholders who had been instructed by the committee to build or maintain a fire trail were able to apply for funding to assist with the work.
National Parks and Wildlife Service regional manager for the South Coast Diane Garrood said Drovers Ridge in Morton National Park was a remote walking route and not identified as a fire trail or as a trail of strategic importance by firefighting agencies in the Shoalhaven.
“It was not required as a fire control line in the recent Deans Gap fire southwest of Nowra,” Ms Garrood said.
“As part of a co-ordinated approach, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service work closely with other agencies and land managers on fire management in the Shoalhaven to minimise bushfire risk, and this includes the maintenance of a network of identified fire trails.
“The Drovers Ridge area has not had vehicle traffic for more than 15 years.”